If you are a UX professional in the Chicago area, you’ve most likely heard about 5 or 6 mainstays that hire constantly. That list invariably includes Sears. We are one of the biggest UX groups in Chicago, and we are expanding.
This makes the hiring process a double-edged sword for me and my colleagues who serve as hiring managers on top of our day-to-day duties. The upside is that we get to see a huge variety of candidates. The downside? We get to see a huge variety of candidates.
I’ve noticed a startling lack of interviewing competency among candidates, and much of it cannot be chalked up to inexperience. So to maintain my sanity and to help you get hired into Sears (after all, why would you be reading this otherwise?), I’ve listed several bits of advice for candidates. These should be seen as a baseline for a potentially positive interview experience. I’m assuming that things like spellchecking your resume don’t need to be explicitly listed.
Have a relevant online portfolio. If you are a UXA and do not have wireframes in your portfolio, I’m not even going to phone screen you because I have no way of knowing that you are a UXA. If you want to send out a PDF portfolio, that’s fine, but I hate downloading PDFs to my phone…it just becomes another barrier. There are countless ways to host your portfolio online for free or for a modest cost. Oh, and make sure you’ve actually looked at your wireframes or screen caps and can speak to them specifically.
Dress appropriately. This is a hard one for creative professionals, and I think the standard for interviewing attire has lowered quite a bit in the last 20 years, but if you show up to an interview in an ironic hipster T-shirt, ripped up skinny jeans, and a dirty pair of Converse (I wish this was hypothetical), it doesn’t tell me that you are an “edgy forward-thinker”. It tells me you cannot adapt to different situations or surroundings.
Be prepared to pitch your story. You are selling yourself in an interview. It’s not even about presenting yourself in a way that misrepresents who you are. Be true to yourself and be spontaneous, but go over possible interview questions the night before and have some talking points (AT LEAST) in your mind as you walk in. Need some example questions? Here’s a good starting point from the person who hired me.
Do your research. Your recruiter will most likely tell you who you will be interviewing you; take advantage of the information. If I have to tell you what to do with a contact name, then you are probably not right for this gig. Research the company and make sure you are up to date with terms and methodologies. There will be time for you to ask questions, so have a bunch of them in your back pocket so you sound relevant and confident.
Research yourself. This varies from hiring manager to hiring manager, but I can tell you that if your resume comes across my desk, I will root out every publicly available piece of information about you that I can. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger, LinkedIn, etc. are treasure troves of insights. Take a moment and really assess your feeds with an objective eye. How is your social media profile presenting you? What message do your feeds send to a potential employer?
Show some energy. I completely understand that introverts are essential in a healthy tech-centric ecosystem. I would never expect anyone to change who they are. But if your answer to any question is a shrug or a nod, you need to seriously check yourself. An interview is an audition for both sides. We try to give you an honest and positive overview of the position and the company, and you show us that you are qualified for and actually desire the position. Again, think of this as a story that you are telling. It needs to be a compelling story. I don’t like interviews where getting information is akin to pulling teeth. Frankly, I’d prefer you to be overly chatty over silent and morose…but please don’t be overly chatty.
It’s not difficult to present yourself in the best light possible at a job interview. I actually find it fun; it’s cool to have a glimpse into other companies. But interviewing well takes preparation and requires adaptability, self-awareness, and confidence, which are three things that a good UXA should have in their toolkit anyway.
Come on, we’re doing cool things here…let me see your best stuff!